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« More fussing about beer | Main | Can you say “moo”? »

A good idea for the 4th

The following is copied from the 07/03/2015 Wall Street Journal.  Why doesn't the industry unite around this rather than fighting for goodies from the leviathan's trough?  "I deserve lower taxes!"  "NO!  I deserve lower taxes, you're too big"  and on and on it goes... 

A Too Dry Fourth of July

If you’re old enough to serve, you’re old enough to be served. Let’s change the drinking age.

William McAloon
July 2, 2015 7:08 p.m. ET
Photo: Getty Images

Sure we’re safer—but at what expense? How much liberty must we sacrifice to remain safe?

No, I’m not referring to the Patriot Act. I’m talking about the drinking-age laws. In particular the age restriction for young military personnel. The arrival of Independence Day this weekend strikes me as a good time to think about freeing America’s men and women in uniform from drinking laws that treat them like children.

The thought came to me a few weeks ago while watching a New York Yankees game on TV when a comforting image popped up: a group of young sailors and Marines enjoying the game. As the camera zoomed in, I could see these seamen and lance corporals, many with stacks of ribbons from sea service and combat, smiling as they cheered on the Yankees, their laps filled with hot dogs and other bounty from the concession stand. Not a beer in sight.

Then it dawned on me: Those young military men and women must have been under 21, not legally old enough to buy a beer at a ball game. It’s going to be the same this Fourth of July, from sea to shining sea—or at least from Oakland, where the Athletics are playing the Seattle Mariners, to New York, where the Yankees face the Tampa Bay Rays. Independence Day weekend. How un-American is that!

As a former active duty Marine officer, I served with men and women who did multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq before being legally permitted to drink their first beer. I know that those who are under 21 aren’t necessarily deprived of the occasional cold one or cocktail, thanks to patriotic bartenders. Millions of these young service members’ underage civilian peers also have access to alcohol.

So why does America have a law that is widely ignored? Because we’re “safer.”

Yes, pegging the drinking age at 18 would likely result in more drunken-driving tragedies, but a certain amount of risk is involved in every attempt to impose legal limits on behavior. Lives would also be saved by raising the drinking age to 25 or 30, but we certainly don’t do that.

Young adults, either college students or those starting out in jobs, are learning to live on their own and make decisions for themselves. That is precisely the wrong time for them to receive a message that the law doesn’t matter. Laws should be reasonable, limited and enforceable—and in the case of the drinking laws, they’re none of the above.

There are plenty of debates in the U.S. about balancing rights and security. Lawmakers and the intelligence community are warned that domestic spying might make us safer, but it’s too big an intrusion on privacy. Why not have a conversation about the drinking age and the loss of personal freedom?

Three decades ago, states set their own legal drinking ages, but that was effectively ended by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which mandated a 10% cut in federal highway funds for states that didn’t ban anyone under 21 from buying or publicly possessing alcohol. That puts the U.S. among a handful of developed nations, including Japan and South Korea, with a minimum drinking age over 18.

Maybe the rest of the world knows something we don’t: Better to let young adults learn to drink responsibly than to make consuming alcohol illicit and thus more alluring. College administrators regularly wrestle with the evidence that binge drinking and dangerous activity increases when booze moves from the bar to private settings.

America tells its 18-year-olds that they are adults. They can vote. And they can join the military. We send thousands of these men and women into combat and tell them that they are mature enough to die for their country but not mature enough to drink. Here’s a suggestion for people who complain that the current generation of young people is too babied: Start treating them like adults.

Candidates vying for the 2016 presidential nomination covet the youth vote. They could do worse than proposing to go back to setting the drinking age at 18, ending this era when disrespect for the law generally is increased by a drinking-age law that is widely ignored.

Failing that, maybe Washington would go for this compromise, one that would encourage enlistment in America’s all-volunteer military: Sign up for the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines at age 18 and you can drink legally with your brothers and sisters in arms. Happy Independence Day.

Mr. McAloon is a former captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran.





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